Monday, February 20, 2012

Super Lazarus

The Warriors' uni is nice but the Apple is sweet.
It's common knowledge now that only a couple weeks ago, the Knicks were a patient on the gurney with a weak pulse if not dead in the water. Not saying anything original here, but watching one of the NBA's classic franchises destroyed by Isaiah over the course of a few years was really sad.

Now it's top of the world. This is the power of sports at its best, and thank god for the Internet, because I have the Knicks scheduled on my calendar and it's appointment TV.

The longer statement about JLin is coming because I had to wait for my angle and it's still baking, so this is about the Knicks, because everyone is so concerned about Melo, how he's going to come in and ruin the chemistry because Melo's a ball hog. Here's what I think.

1. Having one of the league's premier offensive weapons about to return to pair up with an offense firing on all cylinders is a problem worth having. [UPDATE, 2015: Boy, was I wrong!]

2. When Lin came out of today's game against the Mavs, the Knicks literally turned into another team. Lin's impact can't be over-stated. This is why Baron Davis coming back is key, because it spells Lin, who's playing a shit load of minutes, but more, Baron's got skills. Every basketball team knows that bench play is a crucial element to a winning formula. Think about Coop with the 80's Lakes and McHale with the 80's Celts before he became a starter, or even as recently as Barrera with the Mavs in last year's playoffs. That little dude KILLED the Lakes and kept the pedal to the metal. If Baron can come in and contribute, watch out, because this will make the Knicks a very dangerous team.

3. Jeffries is a key player because sometimes -- and I'm being kind when I say sometimes -- A'mare doesn't play like a 4 should in terms of boards. Rebounding is an art, defense is essential. Jeffries played well today and they'll need that to continue.

4. When you look at that intangible, chemistry, this team is playing as well as any in recent memory. As a long time hoops fan, it's fun to watch the game being played this way, pick and roll, team passing, basic fundamental basketball.

5. Much has been made, some of it rightly so, about JLin's turnovers. But here's the rub; he is constantly aggressive, and that puts tremendous pressure on a defense because you're forcing them to react. That's power basketball in its rawest form, and it's what I wish the Lakes had; a player to break the defense down and create openings. Related, JLin's showing signs of developing a killer instinct which is what all of the great players have. His 3 point dagger over Nowitsky was just that. Now let's see if he develops this element.

6. Credit Mike D'Antoni who had a system in search of a player to run it and gave Jlin the chance. The truth is the Knicks were so bad that Lin got the chance because the Knicks stank so much, but D'Antoni's system, where everything flows from the pick and roll, is a case of now having found its lead actor. Timing is everything they say, and this is a case for the annals.

In the final look, the Knicks are loaded with talent; all they needed was a catalyst and it was delivered on a silver platter. Novak, the newly acquired JR Smith, Tyson Chandler, Landry Fields, even Shumpert with his tough defense... all are playing as if a fire's been lit beneath their asses, and I think the Knicks can be a very dangerous team if they sustain this level of play. And if A'mare starts busting out like he's capable of this will be a scary team. Hey, if a notorious head case like JR Smith can come in and play with enthusiasm, watch out.

It also goes to show that if one bad apple spoils a bunch, it works the other way around too.

It's one of the best stories I've ever seen in sports, and has much larger lessons. He's a good kid, and I've been rooting for the Knicks, hanging on every play as the Garden erupts with every good play he makes. It really is tons of fun to watch and is sports at its best.